Proper 11C (OT16)
333: July 21, 2019
176: July 17, 2016
Immediately follows last week’s reading - The Parable of the Good Samaritan - and precedes the Lord’s Prayer- look for the connections
Immediately follows last week - so who is present? Jesus and his “disciples”
Who are the Disciples? Not necessarily the 12, but could easily include the 72!
Puts Martha’s aggravation in context
“Martha is overwhelmed at serving Jesus and his entourage (the text begins with the plural, ‘the continuing of them’). The language of this story amps up the volume a lot. Martha is having what looks like a panic attack. Not one that is rooted in a chemical imbalance or disorder, but one that is evoked by the overwhelming expectations she is facing as the host who is welcoming Jesus and his people. She may be on the verge of losing it. She certainly sees what she is doing as a struggle and she feels completely alone in it. Until we sympathize with the genuine challenge that Martha is facing, the internal ‘riot’ that she is experiencing, then we will only dumb down this story into “Martha, Martha” as a condescending pat on the head. She’s a wreck because she is trying to respond well to what Jesus has put before her. That’s the kind of stormy anxiety that we have to identify with in Martha. I’m not saying that we have to become Martha in all of her anxiety before we can fully appreciate Mary’s sitting. I am saying that we have to appreciate Martha’s position before we critique Martha. She really is panicking about the many things. Jesus does not say that she is irrational or wrong-headed. He merely says that he will not stop Mary from her sitting and hearing.“ (Mark Davis, Left Behind and Loving It)
The issue is not between the contemplative listener and the dutiful activist
It is about doing what is needed in the moment
sometimes we need to listen - Mary
sometimes we need to act - Good Samaritan
Rachel Held Evans - This passage is used to pit women against each other, as if there is a choice that needs to be made.
“If we censure Martha too harshly, she may abandon serving altogether, and if we commend Mary too profusely, she may sit there forever. There is a time to go and do; there is a time to listen and reflect. Knowing which and when is a matter of spiritual discernment.” (Craddock, Interpretation Series)
Being in the moment - focusing on God in our midst above duty and routine
Jesus not indicting hospitality - or even Martha.
“In this light, it would be difficult to imagine that the authorial audience understood Jesus’ praise of Mary to be an implicit criticism of Martha’s hospitality (a point underscored by the repetition of Martha’s name, an example of conduplicatio, a rhetorical device used to indicate compassion or pity).1 Of course, Jesus had the capacity to level such criticism, as we see in the story of one Simon the Pharisee, who fails to follow proper hospitality protocols” (Mikael Parsons, Working Preacher)
Breaking down social barriers to do what is needed.” Women were not allowed to sit at the feet of teachers, but Martha does because that is what was needed at that moment.
“According to Jesus, hearing the word of God’s messenger is the one thing needed, not providing for his physical needs (also Luke 8:15, 21). Thus, however important hospitality is in Luke as a social context for the spread of the Christian message, it is even more important to have followers who attend to Jesus’ messengers. The saying is less a condemnation of Martha’s frenzied activity and more a commendation of Mary’s posture as a disciple.” (Mikael Parsons, Working Preacher)
Faith is not about being the perfect host- which Martha is - it is about being open to relationship
Hospitality is more than invitation into the house- it is invitation into the soul
A willingness to listen and be changed by that relationship
“Activism without contemplation ends in aimless "doing" that usually aggravates existing difficulties...On the other hand, only the unthinking could fail to recognize the myriad ways in which thought—including very serious biblical, theological, and other scholarship—regularly serves the duplicitous purposes of those who, their rhetoric notwithstanding, simply do not wish to ‘get involved.’” Douglas John Hall, Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).
Martha is not focused on being hospitable or serving, she is focused on what her sister is not doing
Martha does not address the issue directly to Mary, but instead triangulates with Jesus who refuses to participate.
Thoughts and Questions
Do we focus on good programs or “preaching the Gospel”?
“Preach the Gospel at all times—if necessary use words.” - St. Francis of Assisi
“A church that has been led to be "worried and distracted by many things" (v. 41) inevitably will be a community that dwells in the shallows of frantic potlucks, anxious stewardship campaigns, and events designed simply to perpetuate the institution. Decisions will be made in meetings without a hint of God's reign. Food and drink will appear at table without Christ being recognized in the breaking of bread. Social issues may be addressed, but the gospel is missed in acts that partake of politics as usual.” - Cynthia A Jarvis, Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).
Triangulation is a big problem in many churches- this is a great opportunity to address it
Not about refusing to hold others’ accountable, but addressing issues directly
see Matthew 18 and Luke 6
Rachel Held Evans’s blog “Accidental Feminist” is not directly about Mary and Martha, but about how a deeper reading of the Bible and the Gospel in particular led her into feminism. It is a good read for this week, even if it is not an exegetical piece about this text.
Gallagher? The comedian who became famous in the 80s for smashing fruit with a big sledge hammer.
“Fourth in a series of four visions in the book of Amos and, like the third vision, this one carries a message of unrelieved judgment.”
“In some respects, a companion piece to 7:1-17 (from last week), in that both texts record visionary experiences of the prophet which become vehicles for delivering words of profound judgment.” (James Newsome, Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 429).
Division of the text “verses 4-12 should probably be heard as a commentary on the vision, or perhaps a sermon inspired by the vision, and not part of the vision itself” (James Newsome, Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 430).
V. 1-3 The divine vision
Basket of “ripe” summer fruit.
Time is “ripe” for God’s judgment.
Temple songs = Cacophony., unpleasant noise. When there is injustice, the songs of worship are not pleasing to God.
Reminiscent of Amos 5:23 “take away the noise of your songs; I won’t listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
V. 4-12 Amos’s proclamation concerning the vision.
Economic Justice - Amos 8:4 is the heart of the matter. Yes, this is an angry God, but why is God angry? “Hear this, you who trample on the needy and destroy the poor of the land”
Eager for Sabbath to be over
Not interested in honoring the Sabbath, just want it to be over so they can go back to business as usual. There is no repentance or transformation that occurs. They just go through the motions.
How many businesses today use Sabbath as a marketing ploy, or tell people that they are “keeping Sabbath holy,” and then actively work for injustice (I’m looking at you, Hobby Lobby).
Make the ephah smaller
Enlarge the shekel
“In the ancient world, units of weight and measure had not been standardized, so a "shekel" or "ephah" used in the markets of Jerusalem might be different than those employed in the markets of Samaria, or Damascus, or Tyre. This means a merchant might need to have different sets of weights in order to trade in different markets. But given human nature, the temptation to cheat the illiterate would often have proven irresistible. Conversely, the suspicion of merchants may have been in many cases unfair. At any rate, one can see that in Amos' day, untrustworthy market places were contributing to a sense of injustice.” (Rolf Jacobson, Working Preacher)
Deceive with false balances
Buy the needy for silver
Buy the helpless for sandals
Sell garbage as grain.
Thoughts and Questions
“How do we respond when God expresses God’s concern for the poor through violence and threats of annihilation? I can try to explain away these violent threats of an unstable father, saying, “It was a different time;” or of course, “It was written by people, it is their perception of God, not what God is really like —it’s metaphorical.” I could do that, but I don’t want to. Why don’t we just condemn that kind of violent, threatening speech, no matter who or what it is in the service of.” Russel Rathbun.
Is there any wonder the powerful use violence to keep the weak on their knees, when God does the same? Is this what it means to be created in the image of God?
“Finally, justice and injustice are systemic. When a person participates in systems that create a more just social order, one is "doing justice." Conversely, when one participates in systems that create a less just social order, one is "doing injustice." Which means, of course, basically everyone is already both doing justice and doing injustice.” (Rolf Jacobson, Working Preacher)
May have been written by Paul - attributed to Paul at the end (4:18)
May have been written by a later author - sentence structure, vocabulary and theology are not consistent with Paul’s other letters, but could be because of the audience and addressing new areas of concern (Paul S. Berge, Enter the Bible)
Not really significant
Written around 61-63 C.E., during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome
Written to be read aloud
Structured in concentric/bookend circles building to a central focus on the sovereignty of Christ
Cosmopolitan city of Greeks, Middle Eastern Jews, and Phrygians
Led to a syncretistic view of religion in which Christ is one of many emanations of the divine
Issues being addressed:
Theological: “Where is God’s true presence to be found and how may human beings gain access to that presence? The answer evidently (for we must bring in the data from the late-second-century Gnostic systems to aid us) came back from these Colossian teachers: God’s fullness is distributed throughout a series of emanations from the divine, stretching from heaven to earth. These “eons” or offshoots of deity must be venerated and homage paid to them as “elemental spirits” or angels or gods inhabiting the stars. They rule destiny, control human life, and hold the entrance into the divine realm in their keeping. Christ is one of them, but only one among many.” (Martin, Interpretation: Ephesians, Colossians & Philemon)
Practical: “How may one prepare for a vision of heavenly realities as part of a rite of passage into the divine presence? The reply was given in terms of a rigorous discipline of asceticism and self-denial. Abstinence, especially from food and drink; observance of holy seasons for fasting and affliction of the soul (2:16); possibly a life of celibacy and mortification of the human body (2:21, 23)—all these exercises and taboos were prescribed as part of the regimen to be accepted if the Christians at Colossae were ever to gain “fullness of life” (2:10).” (Martin, Interpretation: Ephesians, Colossians & Philemon)
V. 15-20 Confessional hymn
Most likely this is not original to Paul but something he incorporated into his letter
Includes phrasing and theological ideas which are not in Paul’s other letters (Martin, Interpretation: Ephesians, Colossians & Philemon)\
Most likely edited by Paul to support his overall emphasis on Jesus’ sovereignty
See Ralph Martin’s commentary (Interpretation: Ephesians, Colossians & Philemon) for a helpful breakdown of the structure and the elements Paul most likely added to address the Colossian context.
Meant to be read as a complete whole, not as individual statements
Note this does not address the readers directly (like the immediately preceding and following verses)
Focus on the supremacy of Christ before and above all other cosmic entities.
Jesus is the image of God - maintaining monotheism - “He is not a copy or likeness of God but the “projection” of God on the canvas of our humanity and the embodiment of the divine in the world of men and women” Martin
In him all things have been created - making Christ above all other beings celestial and terrestrial
Martin focuses on two questions:
Who is the Church’s Lord? God embodied/projected upon the human likeness of Jesus. Not Zeus or the cosmos - only God, one God seen in Jesus
What is the Church? The beginning of a new people, a new creation reconciled wholly and completely with God - think of Pauls’ other language of Jesus as the second Adam. Just as Adam was the beginning of humanity so Christ is the beginning of a new humanity
Interpretation of the Christological hymn for the Colossian audience - “and you”
Good News - not condemnation, “who were once estranged and hostile...doing evil deeds” he is not singling people out or condemning them all, but rather bringing good to new to all which is reconciliation.
Saved from estrangement, hostility and evil deeds
Saved for holy and blameless life before and with God
Suffering and faithful living
Being reconciled does not mean freedom from suffering but rather a changed perspective of suffering. In other words, if his evangelism to the Colossians and the gentiles has resulted in his imprisonment and suffering then it is worth it.
Paul’s focus is not survival or prosperity but maturity in Christ for all people.
David Ng wrote the church is not entertainment, maintenance, fellowship or protection but where Christ is proclaimed as the firstborn of creation reconciling us to God and one another. (Rodger Y. Nishioka, Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16)).
Thoughts and Questions
This passage really get at the focus of the church. Who are we as the church? What is our purpose? What is our mission? What is our focus? What are our struggles in living this out. This passage might be a perfect for inviting your congregation into these difficult question and anchoring these discussion in proclaiming Christ as the firstborn of creation reconciling us to God and one another.
This passage has some difficult implications for interfaith work. There is a universality to the Christological Hymn that includes “everyone” (1:28) and “every creature under heaven” (1:23), but, far from modern pluralism, Paul claims it is “by [Christ] all things hold together” (1:17). Paul is proclaiming the unification of humanity under Christ. This can have patronizing implications for interfaith ministry. Yet, Paul is speaking to Christians, not to non-Christians. As Christians don’t we hold Christ as sovereign and supreme even as we open our hearts to other revelations of God?
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Miserlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Bryan Odeen for our closing music.